May 12, 2020 | Teófilo Otoni, Brazil |
Approximately 269 miles (450 kilometers) from Minas Gerais, Brazil, lies the city of Teófilo Otoni, the largest center for the production of precious stones in the world. The city is slowly beginning to return to its normal routine after government lockdown measures were enforced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Shops, fairs and medical offices recently reopened their doors, with reduced service.
The municipality of more than 140,000 has 424 suspected cases and 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and residents are taking measures to protect themselves.
Luciana Lorentz, a member of the Adventist temple in Grão-Pará, in Teófilo Otoni, is a dental surgeon. When the city shut businesses down, she had to close her office for 40 days. During this 40 day period, she took the time to deepen her relationship with God through fasting and prayer. That was when she felt the desire to do something for Him to help her community. “On the last day [of the fast], the Lord literally woke me up and instructed me to make masks,” she recalls.
Still uncertain about the call she received, she talked with her pastor, Jorge Brito. She asked him if this was really from God. “Doctor Luciana, I have no doubt that it is from God, yes,” Brito told her. The pastor encouraged her to step out in faith, to not be afraid, because the Holy Spirit would provide the people and the means to do His work.
Luciana collected all the money she had and bought enough materials to make 200 masks at home. “I had never made masks before. God guided me even in the way He wanted the masks,” she highlights. She shared her story on social media, calling on others to help with her mission. One of the people touched by her story was the director of security at Teófilo Otoni Penitentiary, Julimar Martins, who is also a member of the Adventist church in the city.
The municipal penitentiary is approximately 40 kilometers from the city center. The prison offers inmates reduced sentences in exchange for manual labor and civil re-education. They make clothes, their own uniforms, bricks and equipment, which are donated to the city and other organizations in the region. Due to the quarantine, however, these projects were put on hold.
Martins says that it was through his niece that he reached Luciana. “She [Luciana] went there, with the sisters from the church, and taught the prisoners how to make masks. They made about 5,000 masks,” he comments. All the material produced was then donated to the security and health forces, which work directly to combat the coronavirus.
Luciana and her group of volunteers did not stop there. They are now taking the project to make masks and aprons to the third penitentiary in the region, in the city of Itambacuri. “God knows everything so perfectly. At that moment when He spoke to me about the masks, I would never have imagined that today we would need to wear them every day, ” explains the surgeon.
Approximately 6,000 masks and 200 medical hygiene aprons have been produced as of the writing of this article. Luciana explains that the idea of the project is “to teach them [interns] how to make masks to help, as we are a very poor region, with few resources.”
She says the project has grown a lot. People from other cities, even volunteers in the United States, have joined Luciana in her “task force” and learned how to make masks.